Do You Have a Resilient Mind?Jul 11, 2022 09:00AM ● By Dr. Marcella Rolle
What is Resilience?
Resilience is defined as the ability to adapt or adjust in the aftermath of “adversity, stressful life events, significant threat, or trauma” (Feder et al. 2019). Resilience is fluid and often presents itself in layers depending on the person. For instance, babies and children often possess more layers of resilience as they do not have as many adverse experiences that could hinder their understanding of safety. Many adults, on the other hand, have years of unfavorable experiences that color their perception of the world while, in many cases, challenge their resiliency as well as their trust of the world around them.
Yet, with some self-care, strong faith in something or someone, or an opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they can strengthen and even expand their layers of resilience. What scholars find even more fascinating is that certain cultural groups, namely women of color, have often had to expand their layers of resilience for survival. Consequently, what is most often perceived as a positive characteristic becomes a necessary characteristic for many.
Is Resilience Harmful or Helpful
Based on my brief definition above, how would you define your relationship with resilience? Pause, and take some time to think about it. Understanding your relationship with resilience will help to determine if resilience has been helpful or harmful for you. Let me explain. When resilience is birthed from natural life stressors that are experienced minimally to moderately, most people develop resiliency as an effective response to stress (Feder et al. 2019). However, if you have been bombarded with stressors such as oppression, racism, death, constant health problems, and financial hardships, you may have developed excessive characteristics of resilience. The latter may look like a person who never stops to check on themselves; a person who does not often process grief, trauma, or adverse experiences; and even a person who struggles to sustain healthy relationships. So, I’ll ask again, is resilience helpful or harmful for you?
If you just realized that resilience may have been harmful for you in the past, let me just pause here and say, you are not alone! I want to offer you permission to feel and then release the burden of carrying around excessive amounts of resilience. I want to remind you, you are human and are allowed to need others, desire help, and even feel loss, broken, and hurt. Unhealthy amounts of resilience often trick you into feeling like you are underserving of admitting to weakness and exhaustion. Yet, understanding or redefining, rather, resilience as a source of strength could change the trajectory of your experiences with adversity, stress, threat, and trauma in the future.
Resilience as a Source of Strength
Let’s consider resilience as a source of strength. First, let’s understand the term strength. Oxford dictionary defines strength as “the capacity...to withstand great force or pressure”. While it is never our desire to be put in positions in which someone or something is applying great force or pressure, we all recognize such experiences are more common than not. With that said, a healthy relationship with resilience produces strength that is unique to you. Understanding YOU is imperative to understanding how resilience works for you. Let’s say you handle confrontation well; you never lose your cool when confronted by someone. You may have always identified such strengths as a character trait you inherited from a relative. However, you would not even know you have that trait had you not been met with confrontation and watched your mind and body react to the forceful situation. Resilience worked for you in that moment; resilience tapped into your genetics, your personality, your typical response to stress, and brought all those moving parts together to create what you currently recognize as a skillful ability to handle confrontation. Yet, we so often overlook all of the moving parts and, therefore, misunderstand how resilience can be developed into a strength. So, how can you use resilience to strengthen your relationship with your mind, your thoughts, and even your emotions? Step one, get to know your resilient mind, the history, the hardships, the beauty of the experiences. Step two, get to know you, your genetics, your culture, your strengths, your weaknesses. And step three, consider efforts to diminish the need for unhelpful and excessive resilience.
An example of employing the three steps may be applied to your response to our current pandemic (COVID-19). Consider the toll COVID-19 has taken on your day-to-day life, your relationships, your stress live, your mind. How has your resilient nature shown up? In what ways has your resilient mind protected you or may harm you as it relates to COVID-19? Have you found increased fear related to vaccination? Or maybe you find you don’t watch the news or go anywhere. Whatever your relationship with the pandemic, it is quite possible resiliency has played a role. So, I encourage you to apply the three steps mentioned above to unpack just how this pandemic may be affecting your mind and your daily life. Doing all three over time will help you develop a beautiful resilient mind.
Feder, A., Fred-Torres, S., Southwick, S. M., & Charney, D. S. (2019). The biology of humanresilience: opportunities for enhancing resilience across the life span.
Biological psychiatry, 86(6), 443-453. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.07.012
Dr. Marcella Rolle, PhD, LAPC, NCC, CAMS, is a recent transplant to Pennsylvania from Georgia where she has worked most of her career as a counselor. Dr. Rolle has worked with graduate level counseling students, teaching such courses as group counseling, addictions counseling and career counseling. She currently serves as an Assistant Professor at Missio Seminary where she teaches and advises mental health counseling students.
Dr. Rolle completed her PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision at Walden University where she conducted research on the relationship between microaggressions, academic strategy development and region of upbringing among Black women in doctoral programs. Her hope is to use this data to develop best practices for supporting, mentoring, supervising and educating Black women in their doctoral journey.